Another Nice City

We were up and off the moment the new calorifier passed its’ installation checks. What bliss! Not only did we have a perfect 12 knots of wind from just aft of the beam ( a moist SE’er giving advanced warning of the blow to come) but the boat was back in one piece. No more tripping over bunk boards and tool boxes and cushions every time you moved, everything was stowed and Bristol fashion, swaying gently to the tiny Ijselmeer popple and Festina was back in her element, easing past all the other boats heading our way. It’s always fun to see the reaction on other boats as we overtake them. Initial consternation gives rise to frantic adjusting of sails – but all to no avail and we led a little flotilla into Makkum, at the NE corner of the Ijselmeer and just one lock away from the tidal Waddenzee.

We now had a bit of a dilemma. There wouldn’t be enough water to lock through until 1000 hrs the next day , by which time the wind was forecast to be rapidly rising. Our route took us dead downwind into an increasingly shallow gat called the Boontjes and I was a bit nervous about what to expect. On the plus side, we would have the tide with us and I had a feeling that as long as you avoided wind against tide conditions , the Wadden is fairly safe , so we went for it. As we approached the lock we were joined by 5 large sailing barges so I figured they must feel it was safe too.

And it was. With the wind never more than 25 knots we scooted downwind under genoa, furling it in at the narrow bits and never even risking spilling our morning coffee. On the advice of a Dutch acquaintance we had decided to head for Harlingen ( “It alzo eez a nysh sheety”) , but everything was so easy we did for a moment consider heading across to the island of Terschelling. Thankfully we decided against it. I say thankfully because , indeed , Harlingen IS a “nysh sheety” with its historic buildings and moorings alongside a 17th century quay, but also , within an hour of arriving it was blowing 30 knots across the rooftops so must have become pretty wild outside.

Picture us then, moored tight to the ancient bollards in this picturesque town, soaking up the sunshine and feeling smug that we were not outside fighting the elements. Minutes later in one of those reverses of mood that is so typical of this water born life, I am feeling thoroughly ashamed , and soon terrified. The shame came about when a nice Dutchman gently pointed to our bar taught mooring lines and remarked that we must remember we are now back in tidal waters. Oops ,”Thank you sir” and thank goodness we didn’t just leave the boat and go off exploring or we would have come back to find her hanging from her cleats! Well that was soon rectified, but the next problem was of a different order of magnitude. One of the huge steel sailing barges decided to moor up nearby. She was 80 ft and 80 tons if she was an ounce, and the skipper lost control in the fierce cross wind. The next boat up took the brunt of the assault ( luckily she too was steel ) but we came within a whisker of being crushed with absolutely nothing we could have done about it.

All is safe now; the bridges are closed for the night so no one else can assault us for a while and our lines seem to have coped with the full drop of low tide. Its howling overhead, but we are in the lee of a row of high 17th century warehouses all exquisitely converted into shops and dwellings. Perhaps it’s time to head out to try some of the Dutch gin for which the town is apparently famous.

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